Will I ever be able to use linux?

I just installed ubuntu on my computer yesterday. I’ve been fiddling around with it for HOURS, and it’s the most complicated confusing thing I’ve ever laid eyes on. I mean, for God’s sake, you can’t just download and install programs. You have to type all of these lines of commands.


So, what I’m asking is for recommendations for good websites or books for those trying to get started with Linux. My followup question, however, is will a person like me with pretty competent computing abilities (though all windows based) be able to master Ubuntu to the extent that I will not be pulling my hair out any time soon.

What is it that you’re trying to install? Most things are dead simple to install on Ubuntu (indeed, arguably easier than Windows) - the procedure consisting of one of the following:
-Run Synaptic Package Manager, locate the program you want, tick it, click ‘apply’, wait, close Synaptic, use the program

-Run Add/Remove Programs (which appears to be a just a prettied-up, slimmed-down version of Synaptic), select the program you want, install and run it

-Download a .deb package, open it and run it, letting it install the program.

That works for most of the common stuff. If the program you’re trying to install is supplied as source code, then yes, compiling and installing it can be a right pain in the arse.
If it’s a program that requires a back end database (I dunno - a message board or something), then there’s going to be some tinkering with configuration and setup there, but that could happen on any OS.

What is it that you’re trying to install?

No, really, it’s not. And I don’t say that as anything but a totally neutral, factual statement. More expansively, OSes are inherently complicated – I’ve learned, the hard way, that it’s much more a matter of what you’re used to than one being any more complicated than another. Being a linux guy, you should hear me cursing up a storm when I have to work on a Windows or Mac. Although OSX (on Mac, being BSD-based) and Cygwin (on Windows) make it much less painful.

No, really, you don’t. As Mangetout says, use synaptic (found under the “System → Administration” menu item). And if you don’t want to use the GUI, installation is generally as easy as typing apt-get install … on the command line. The problem isn’t that it’s (generally) difficult to install software – assuming it’s in the repository, just select a package, click install, and it’ll do its thing – no muss, no fuss. The actual problem is that there is so much software available that it may take hours to figure out what you want.

That isn’t to say that some things aren’t incredibly difficult. For instance, I spent 5 hours the other day figuring out an issue with a dual-monitor setup at work. Turns out that the GUI interface for setting adjustments is flat-out broken and that I had to manually modify a single line in the xorg.conf file; identifying that one, non-obvious line was my problem.

My best suggestion on solving issues is two-fold: (1) google and the Ubuntu forums are your friend (assuming you can figure out appropriate keywords), and (2) post a question here in GQ. Honestly, as you become more conversant with it, it’ll make more and more sense.

After reading this sentence, for some reason, it just snapped. You can imagine how having two or three different ways to install something can be daunting. I was reading things that were getting me to use terminal at one point, and synaptic at the other. I was typing all sorts of things and had no idea what I was typing.

I just installed three programs in about ten minutes. Last night it took me HOURS to install compiz fusion’s advanced desktop effects.

I’ve still got stuff to figure out [how to watch Netflix with Mythtv(?), and how to play/transfer files to/from my Creative Zen Vision:M], but I’m advancing. I was just really frustrated this morning when I was trying to get an audiobook onto my mp3 player before going to work (didn’t figure it out until a moment ago).

I also got a book at the library…

One thing to note is that many GUI applications – particularly if the coders are conscious of the interface/processing division – are really just front-ends for an underlying command-line program (e.g., GnomeBaker). One of the benefits of linux is that you can do most anything from a command-line.

On a related note, here’s a feature that seems incomprehensible to many Windows users: at any time, you can hit ctrl-alt-Fx (where “x” is 1 through 6) to get a separate terminal login session outside of the X-windows session. Pressing ctrl-alt-F7 is the X-windows session. This is particularly useful if your GUI locks up (not a single application, the entire X-windows session). This allows you to do a bit of behind-the-scenes analysis and fixing, when necessary, assuming it’s not a more serious issue (like a kernel panic).

I wish I could give you tips on the applications you mentioned, but I have no experience with MythTV nor ZenVision.

I think MythTV needs a back end database, but I seem to remember there’s a script for setting it all up - rather than the usual quite complex instructions.

It’s probably going to involve a bit of dipping into the command line, but not intensively so.

Sometimes it’s best to seek a third party instruction guide for installing a specific app in Linux - the developers often make the assumption that everybody understands the technicalities as well as they do - and write their instructions in far too technical and inaccessible a manner.